September 8, 2004
Number 67, Volume 2

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Farmed Animal Watch is sponsored by Animal Place, Animal Welfare Trust, Farm Sanctuary, The Fund for Animals, Glaser Progress Foundation, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals


UK-based Deans Foods has become the first company in the world to use "controlled atmosphere stunning" for the 7,000 spent hens and "breeders" processed each hour in the company's facility. The new stunning process is already in use by some of the major processors of "broiler" chickens. The use of the stunning method on spent hens and breeders had not been implemented in part because those birds "tend to be more 'flighty' and 'lively' than broilers." Controlled atmosphere stunning involves exposing the birds to one of several nitrogen-based gas mixtures and is considered one of the most humane slaughter methods for chickens and turkeys. Using the method, birds are typically stunned before transport and before being shackled upside down to facilitate slaughter, considered highly stressful times for chickens and turkeys who have been stunned inadequately or not at all.

The practice of controlled atmosphere stunning is supported as a welfare improvement by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in the UK, which had previously certified Deans Foods as a "Freedom Food" chicken processor. Freedom Food was established in 1994 as the RSPCA's means of implementing and enforcing welfare standards. In addition to improving the welfare of chickens before slaughter, controlled atmosphere stunning has also been shown to improve conditions for slaughterhouse workers, increase worker productivity, and improve the quality of meat products.

"Stunning Advice,", Domenick Castaldo, Ph.D., August 31, 2004

"The Case for Controlled Atmosphere Stunning," PETA, Cem Akin, October 8, 2003
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Rodney Walker, a former employee of an Indiana farm, is going public with claims that the farm's pigs were subjected to severe cruelty and neglect. Walker, who worked for more than six years at the Seldom Rest pig farm, describes in detail numerous instances of abuse including a dying, pregnant sow being forced to nurse another sow's litter. Another incident involved a pregnant pig that was forced to lay in the sun for weeks to give birth before being killed. Walker alleges widespread neglect of the pigs' living conditions that led to numerous broken limbs, overcrowding, and other health problems. According to Walker, "I can't tell you in the seven years I was there how many animals have broken their legs from getting their feet caught in a six-inch gap at the end of these gestation pens." Walker also admits to killing piglets by swinging their heads against the side of a pen and killing fully grown pigs by clubbing them with a pipe. The use of "blunt trauma" as a method of euthanasia is considered unacceptable by both the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) and at least one industry expert. The owners of Seldom Rest farm, which has approximately 2,800 breeding sows, are past winners of the Pork All-American award, a "national award given to producers who exemplify the ideals and standards of the industry."

"Hog Abuse Allegations Investigated," The Star Press, Seth Slabaugh, September 8, 2004

"Hogs Allegedly Live Painful, Stressful Lives," The Star Press, Seth Slabaugh, September 7, 2004


The US pig industry is slaughtering animals at a brisk pace and is set to slaughter a record number of pigs in 2004. Economists estimate that two million more pigs will be slaughtered this year than the current record of 102 million slaughtered in 1998. The year-to-date number of pigs slaughtered is up 3.1% and is expected to end the year at 2.5% over the 2003 number. Typically such record slaughter numbers are met with capacity constraints and/or weakening prices, but this year the industry is experiencing both excess capacity and even stronger prices. Such an industry dynamic points to significantly stronger consumer demand, attributed in part to the popularity of high-protein diets. According to a pork industry publication, "Most of the credit for this (combination of high slaughter and high prices) should go to Dr. Atkins and the other proponents of high protein diets."

The record pig slaughter in the US comes at the same time that some smaller pig farms are being bought out by state governments. In North Carolina, more than 26 pig farms have been shut down permanently, their owners opting to sign agreements not to raise pigs on the land for at least 100 years. Owners are receiving between $90,000 and $900,000 for their properties, part of $12 million that the state has allocated so far to decommission pig farms that are located in the state's flood plain.

"US Swine Economics Report," The Pig Site, Ron Plain, September 6, 2004

"More NC Flood-Prone Hog Farms to be Closed Down," Pork Magazine, Bill Raufer, September 3, 2004


One of the leading providers of "naturally-raised" beef in the US is looking to expand the market for veal from calves raised using more humane, natural methods. Farmer Bill Niman plans to work with small Wisconsin dairy farmers in order to help slow the decline of family farms in the state as well as increase acceptability of veal among American consumers. A dairy farmer who helped develop the program said, "Veal has been the poster child for everything we've done wrong with dairy animals." If successful, the program could involve as many as 4,500 farms supplying thousands of calves whose meat will be marketed and sold to high-end restaurants throughout the country. The new program involves raising grass-fed calves and providing more space than traditional methods and is supported by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), an organization that certifies farms according to "humane husbandry" standards. "The point is that the alternative for these individual animals is much worse," said Marlene Halverson of AWI. Male calves born on dairy farms are typically killed shortly after birth or sold to large-scale veal operations that strictly confine the calves and feed them iron-deficient diets.

In Australia, medical research companies are paying a premium for pregnant cows so that they can use the blood from unborn (fetal) calves for scientific purposes. Australia is being targeted in part because the country is perceived as "clean and green" compared to the US where fears of BSE ("mad cow disease") remain high.

"Niman Strives to Make Veal an Acceptable Choice," San Francisco Chronicle, Kim Severson, September 8, 2004

"Australian Cattle Targeted for Fetal Blood," ABC Radio, August 20, 2004


FOOD CONTAMINANTS: Researchers from the American Chemical Society have discovered that animal-based foods have been found to contain higher levels of flame retardants known as PBDEs than expected. One researcher noted, "We found PBDE in all food containing animal fats;" the report found the highest levels of PDBEs in fish, particularly farmed salmon, followed by other meat products and dairy products. Although not much is known about PBDEs, they are believed to be related to PCBs and have been linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, and brain impairment in humans. The high risk associated with fish builds on the fear of other contaminants such as mercury, known to cause health risks to pregnant women and young children.

DIETARY GUIDELINES: As the USDA considers updates to its dietary recommendations for Americans, including the well-known Food Guide Pyramid, an advisory committee released a report this week that is described as "largely a positive one for the industry." In its report to USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services, the committee reiterated the longstanding position of the USDA that consumers should eat a variety of foods. The committee did make some specific recommendations about limiting intake of cholesterol and fat, specifically trans fats. Following release of the committee's recommendation, the USDA opened a public comment period that will last until September 29, 2004.

"Flame Retardants Found in US Food Supply,", Kristin Gagnon, September 7, 2004

"Toxins in Food Supply Signal Need for Change, Environmental News Network, Dr. David Suzuki, September 2, 2004

"Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Report Is Released," Cow-Calf Weekly, September 3, 2004

"Public Comment Period Begins on Report of Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee," USDA, August 27, 2004


"Pig Health Section Upgraded," The Pig Site, September 6, 2004
An industry-sponsored website for pig farmers has been updated with a comprehensive library of more than 600 pages of publicly available "information on managing the health aspects of a pig or hog farm."

"Fewer Pigs Don't Abate Concerns of Farm Neighbors," York Daily Record, Lorie Badders, September 7, 2004
A UK pig farmer has scaled back plans for a proposal to house up to 3,300 in the face of local opposition and stringent federal regulations, instead choosing to lower the expected number to 2,200 pigs.

"Growing Threat of Illegal Meat Trade," The Pig Site, September 6, 2004
The UK reports that the import of illegal "bush meat" has increased substantially, with nearly 16,000 seizures this year, representing 185 tons of illegal meat; moreover, this amount is expected to account for less than 1% of the country's illegal meat trade. (Western Morning News website)

"WTO Approves Sanctions against US over Dumping Rules,", Brendan O'Neill, September 7, 2004
The World Trade Organization, responding to complaints from US trade partners, authorized several countries to impose more than $150 million in sanctions against the US for not repealing "anti-dumping" regulations protected by the so-called Byrd Amendment enacted in 2000.

"Tyson Included in List of Fastest Growing Companies,", Ann Bagel, September 6, 2004
Tyson Foods, the world's foremost meat processor and largest slaughterer of farmed animals, has been ranked number 44 on Fortune's list of the 100 Fastest Growing Companies.


  1. UK Chicken Processor Employs New Stunning Method

  2. Claims of Cruel and Ongoing  Abuses at Indiana Pig Farm

  3. US Pig Slaughter to Set Record Despite Small Farm Closures

  4. Calves: "Humanely Raised" Veal; Scientists Seek Fetal Blood

  5. Consumer News: Food Contaminants; USDA Dietary Guidelines

  6. Other Items of Interest



Compiled and edited by Hedy Litke and Che Green, Farmed Animal Watch is a free weekly electronic news digest of information concerning farmed animal issues gleaned from an array of academic, industry, advocacy and mainstream media sources.

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